For those of you who are of the TL;DR persuasion: The Gogs won the battle (by 7), but lost the war (by 7).

 

It was with a heavy heart that your correspondent awoke on Saturday morning. Not due to the sadness that remained from Alex ‘The Baron’ Higgs being robbed of a second victory in the boxing ring still coursing through his veins, but because Saturday morning is the most dangerous time to be a Gogs captain. Would the squad, meticulously pulled together over the week, remain intact? The threat of players being lost due unforeseen commitments, hangovers or weekend passes being rescinded is all too real. A squad of 19 on Thursday became 18 on Friday, then 19 again, then 17 by Saturday morning as the twin horrors of five a side football and man flu bit hard at the Gogs’ squad.


The Gogs were excited to arrive, mostly on time, to the club's spiritual second home, Hackney Marshes, which was doing its best to live up to its name under a deluge of rain. With a pack comprised of one hooker too young to play in the front row, 2 second rows, 2 back rows, 2 backs and one amateur boxer, the captain's call was for 'All Blacks-style total rugby'. Yes, that's right, your correspondent asked the team to play like the Hackney Champagne XV Phoenix. In torrential rain (#tactics).


Hackney recently moved from the Herts and Middlesex Merit Tables to simply the Middlesex Merit Tables, which come with their own set of interesting regulations. The most pertinent being that if you don't have a starting competitive front row, you either start 14-0 down or with 14 players (I assume, like all good policies, it was decided by committee. Of 14.). This all assumes that the opposing team choose to enforce it, an optional decision which they did indeed choose to make, by choice.


In any case, as Former Emperor Murphy sagely noted post match, "I think it's a good thing. It's just like the league have institutionalised the 14 point lead we usually give the oppo within 10 minutes, and we have a whole 80 to chase it down." And in a once-a-season turn of events the Gogs flew out of the traps, taking a 12-0 lead in the first half thanks to a combination of second turned winger Will Harris being stronger than 4 Old Street players, and Rob Weil turning a terrible Matt Hanton cross kick into what the record books will show as an excellent assist by virtue of a superb finish in the corner. 


After the flying start Hackney took their foot off the gas, allowing Old Street back into the match. Their use of one out runners was unambitious but effective, as their one out runners tended to be rather larger than Hackney's makeshift pack. However said makeshift pack was not for moving, as the tackle count mounted, and Old Street runners were repelled time and again with Mat Cole, Adam Faulkner and in particular Arran Ferguson scoring big points for any fantasy league managers who picked them that week. Eventually Old Street did break through, though a penalty just before half-time left Hackney with a comfortable lead at the break (15-5). Though it was actually not a lead and the score was actually 15-19. It was all a bit confusing for a group of rugby players who aren't the best at counting. 


After half time the game got (even more) scrappy as the rain continued to lash down and both sides emptied their respective benches. Old Street scored a couple of soft tries, one from their own 5m lineout after a terrible clearing kick from your correspondent, and one from a Hackney lineout that went slightly awry. Hackney did have the last word, regaining the lead/cutting the deficit after with the try of the game as Harris got his second, cutting a superb line to stroll in under the posts untouched. There was enough time for Hackney to get back in the game but they didn't really get hold of the ball, and were hindered further by a contretemps in the midfield leading to the team dropping to 14 men with 5 minutes to go. Old Street closed out the game with a few minutes of one out phase play that the Irish test team would have been proud of, before Hackney got the ball back for the last play of the game and promptly decided to emulate their heroes from the 1s by knocking the thing on. This anticlimactic end to the match was made all the more so because, no one really knew who had the winners actually were. Which, let's face it, is the mark of a successful sporting event.


So, 2 games for the Gogs, and whilst officially we sit on 2 losses, there were some great debuts from our 4 new Gogs and a considerably better performance than the previous week meant a happy captain (all things being relative). So, to commemorate the first report of the season, let's have some player ratings...


15 - Pat Beal 

Another solid game from the post-uni version of Pat, who I'm told loves playing for the Gogs and definitely doesn't want to play 2s. Still a reluctant post-match drinker, but we're working on it (7)


14 - Rob Weil

A debut try from a late call-up, caused no end of problems for his opposite number with the limited amount of ball he got - not the first Gogs winger to suffer from that over the years... (7)


13 - Kieran Murray

Despite being a flanker playing out of position in the backs (check this - Ed.) Kieran had a great game, leading by example with the novelty tactic of tackling big guys low. It'll never catch on. Bonus points for post-match lifts, instantly taken away for not actually living 5 minutes from Mascara. (8)


12 - Hugh Price

Another debut, it quickly became clear that whilst Hugh is happy to chuck the ball about he is, in the finest tradition of Gogs' 12s, happiest when running into the man right in front of him. And drinking beer in Mascara Bar. (8)


11 - Will Harris

A debut, sort of, because Will played last year. But a debut Gog, and 2 tries, equals good times. Bonus points to be retroactively awarded when he succumbs to the inevitable and does a stint in the pack again (8)


10 - Matt Hanton

The records (if there were any) will show 75% off the tee, and not a lot else to write home about. Does a lot for the club? (6.9)


9 - Rich/Richard Shorey

As always, a solid game from Mr Shorey, who didn't fluff his lines on the big stage, WHICH IS MORE THAN CAN BE SAID FOR DAGENHAM THAT DAY (7)


8 - Adam Faulkner

A typically bullocking performance from Mr Faulkner, plenty of good carries and huge hits, as well as the odd unjustly-penalised turnover effort. 'Outrageously' carded late in the day, obviously loses points for skipping DotD responsibilities (7)


7 - Arran Ferguson - MotM

Allegedly a back masquerading as a forward but with performances like this I'm not sure that's the case. Clearly toughness runs in the family, sadly drinking ability doesn't... (9)


6 - Luc Sherman

Another great performance from one of Hackney's former colts. The production line is still working well it seems (8)


5 - Cian Murphy-Griffin

Former Emperor Murphy taking a break from the jetsetting lifestyle to grace the Gogs with his presence. Didn't get injured for once, which means I didn't get in trouble. Loses points for not bringing us all his leftover steak (7)


4 - Mat Cole

Exceptionally high tackle count, willing carrier all day, one of the best games I've seen Mat have for the Gogs. Second best rugby player in his family (8)


3 - Ben Graham

A typical all-action performance from Mr Graham, equally at home tackling big lads round the ankles as he is negotiating his way into Mascara Bar at 2am. (8)


2 - Spencer Elliot

First season of adult rugby. It doesn't show. Next step is getting him out of work on Saturday mornings so he can join for away games. Essentially, a young Rolfin. (8)


1 - Matt Rooke

Another back who definitely a forward, despite his Gogs career being exclusively spent on the low numbers. Yet again fell for the 'can you do 20 minutes off the bench as back cover' routine. Good shift though. (8)


IMPACT PLAYERS (copyright: Bristol Bears)


16 - Austin Thomas

Apparently only his second game of rugby apart from 'a bit of 7s' but tackles like that's not the case. Good runner too...looking forward to seeing how he goes when not a little hungover (and with some brushing up on the laws!) (7)


17 - Joe Mitchell

Solid first appearance of the season from Joe (literally, no one has seen him since May). After an equally solid appearance at training surely the early front runner for 2019/20 Gogs captain... (7)